You mentioned you’re from Johor, Malaysia. What brought you to Singapore, and how long have you been here?
I came to look after my grandchildren, but I go back and forth between Johor and Singapore. My daughter is home with her kids today, so I came out to walk around. My wife comes to Singapore with me sometimes, but not always.
How many daughters do you have?
I have two daughters, and both of them are living and working here in Singapore now. The older one is married and has kids, so I look after her children sometimes, but the younger one is still single.
Just as well—my younger daughter can be quite fussy at times like my wife, so she’s probably happier being single. My older daughter is more easygoing like me.
When we go out to eat, my younger daughter will compare the prices of everything, and ask for this and that, but my older daughter will just order a bunch of food and have everyone share it. Their personalities are very different.
What did you do for work in the past?
I was an engineering supervisor in charge of maintaining machinery. When I was first approached for the job, I told them “I know nothing about engineering. How can you ask me to do work like this?” But they said “Mr Teh, we’re not asking you to work as an engineer, we’re asking you to supervise them”.
I don’t speak English, so when we had meetings, I was the only one speaking in Chinese. Everyone else spoke English, so there would be someone there to translate for me. It was the same for writing too. I would write in Chinese, and someone would translate it to English after. I couldn’t do it myself—I’ve only ever been to primary school. After that, I started working.
How long were you working as a supervisor for?
I was there for a very long time. I worked till I was about 30-40 years old, then I went on to start a business with some friends, but I got cheated of my money.
Back then, I came to Singapore to find the cheater, and he cried in front of me and told me that it wasn’t him who took the money, it was his friend, our supposed leader. I told him “I’m not here to hound you for my money. Forget that, it’s just money, and we’re friends anyway, so let’s leave the past behind us. Then you don’t have to feel bad or whatever.”
Anyway, I’ve never gotten much of an education, so I don’t know what’s good or bad when it comes to starting up a business. I can’t start one on my own. I can only financially back someone up if they want to start a business. Just tell me how much each person is forking out, and if I have the money, I’ll give it to you (laughs).
Do you have any habits or a daily routine that you follow?
Have you eaten? Because if I say this aloud, you’ll definitely throw up. When I drink coffee in the morning—every day for the past few decades—I’ll add ginger, garlic, and onion into it. I chop them up and mix them all together, add that in the coffee, and drink it.
I’m used to it already, because I’ve been drinking this since I started going out to work after primary school, which is why I rarely fall sick or have any ailments like aches and pains. Nothing!
If I’m in Malaysia, I’ll just grab whatever herbs, weeds, or grasses by the side of the road, chop that up, and add two spoonfuls to warm water to drink. I don’t dare to do that in Singapore, because the grasses and plants are sprayed with a lot of chemicals, so I just drink my coffee concoction.
Which one tastes better? Did you learn this trick from your parents?
Both of them don’t taste good lah. It’s just for my health, that’s all. You can call me a weirdo if you want. I’m already known as a weirdo in Malaysia (laughs).
And no, I taught myself. When my parents first found out I was drinking this, even they wanted to throw up! (laughs) But it really works! I can still walk very fast, even till now. People always ask me “Why do you walk so fast?”. I’ll tell them “I’m rushing to the afterlife mah!” (laughs).
But one bad thing about me is that I don’t get much sleep, maybe about five hours a night from when I was young till now, which is why I age so fast (laughs).